COLUMN | '4th & LOL' | How Will We Remember The 2023 Iron Bowl?

December 30, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

*This is an opinion column*

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TUSCALOOSA, AL — As a qualifier, I’m not a sportswriter and I hope the message board mafias and history will both take that into account.

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I’ve written ad nauseam of my love for sports, so much so that I make it a point not to spend every waking hour chasing it as part of my journalism career.

If it weren’t for such a brutish and awe-inspiring pastime for me to unplug and enjoy after bashing my head against a wall all day reading pages of court documents and public records, I’m not sure what I’d do with myself.

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Sports, especially football, are central to our local identity in Tuscaloosa. And even still, despite it being just a child’s game, the Crimson Tide’s most iconic moments have imprinted themselves in our DNA for those who value having a sense of place.

The Snake’s “Run In The Mud” in 1967

The 1979 Sugar Bowl goal line stand against Penn State

“The Kick” by Van Tiffin in 1985, followed the next year by Cornelius Bennet taking Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein horizontal.

George Teague high-stepping in 1992

2nd and 26

I grew up in Tuscaloosa County and, like many of you, the aforementioned moments and images were burned into my brain before I could tie my shoes.

Locals will know well what I mean when I say this ineffable feeling can be brought out by something like an off-centered Daniel Moore portrait of Alabama’s 1989 “Desperation Block” against Penn State hanging in the Historic Waysider Restaurant — another immortal chapter in Crimson Tide history that occurred less than two months after I was born at DCH Regional Medical Center.

Over three decades later, the Friday morning before the Iron Bowl, Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe walked through the same door of the restaurant that was a favorite of Bear Bryant and sat down to pose for a photo in front of the same Daniel Moore painting of the iconic moment against Penn State.

Quite a powerful moment.

To paraphrase one of my literary heroes, the great baseball writer Joe Posnanski, legendary people deserve nicknames and iconic moments deserve concise and clever titles that are easily passed down for posterity’s sake.

And Saturday night — the 10th anniversary of the “Kick Six” — what seemed to be the most devastatingly terrible snap in an evening of bobbled exchanges between Milroe and his center led to just the latest iconic moment that will soon collect dust for years hanging in picture frames on the walls of restaurants, offices, bars and living rooms.

Facing 4th-and-31 after the botched play, I was sitting with my head in my hands in my home office, refusing to watch on the living room television as Eli Gold gave me the play-by-by over the radio …

… just about the time the sophomore from Katy, Texas launched one to Isaiah Bond that landed true in the back of the end zone. It gave the Tide the lead and eventual win to finish the regular season undefeated in Southeastern Conference play.

It’s one of only a handful of iconic moments we may ever see in our lifetimes and will no doubt be coming to a meat-and-three near you.

But every good opinion column should have a central question that must be answered, so I offered all of those words to ask you this: What are we going to call this poster-ready moment in Crimson Tide football history?

In the spirit of Milroe being the spokesman for the LANK (Let All Naysayers Know) mentality adopted by the team this year, I offer the title of “4th & LOL” as the formal nickname for such an iconic moment.

Maybe it’s personal pettiness, but I can’t help but dwell on the folks who counted Milroe out.

They counted him out after the 77-yard touchdown run against Arkansas last season that showed the world exactly what he was capable of. Never mind that he was just a stand-in for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and eventual No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft who watched from the sidelines with an injury.

They counted him out when he lost the first big game of his career as a starter to a team from his home state — the earliest non-conference loss of the Nick Saban Era.

While I have nothing to prove it, Coach Saban appeared deliberate in his quarterback decisions for the rain-soaked, low-res win over South Florida in September that gave the Crimson Tide fanbase its regrettable introduction to its quarterback depth chart.

Eight SEC wins later, with nary a loss, the Tide is on the College Football Playoff bubble as the top contender to usurp a juggernaut Georgia program — with the two set to face off next Saturday in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

In a video posted to Instagram by the Alabama athletic department in the moments immediately following the win Saturday night, Milroe took the field at Jordan-Hare without a helmet and whipped a towel in celebration, before shouting “Gimme the Heisman.”

And if I had a vote, I’d give it to him.

Too bad I’m not a sportswriter.

Ryan Phillips is an award-winning journalist, editor and opinion columnist. He is also the founder and field editor of Tuscaloosa Patch. The views expressed in this column are his own and in no way a reflection of our parent company or sponsors. Contact him at

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